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CONTEXT: Murine fibroblast growth factor (FGF) 21 is a nutritionally regulated hormone secreted by the liver principally in response to peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha (PPAR alpha) activation, which plays a critical role in regulating metabolism during ketosis. FGF21 is also a PPAR gamma target gene in mouse adipose tissue. Little information is available on FGF21 functions in humans. OBJECTIVE: The aim of the study was to measure plasma FGF21 during fasting, ketogenic diet, and PPAR agonist treatment in humans. DESIGN AND SETTING: We conducted a prospective study involving three patient groups at two university hospitals. PATIENTS: Eight healthy male volunteers underwent a 48-h period of starvation followed by 24-h refeeding (group 1); seven obese individuals were allocated to a low-carbohydrate diet for 3 months (group 2); and three groups of healthy, overweight or obese male volunteers received treatment with a PPAR alpha (20 microg/d GW590735) (n=6), PPAR delta (10 mg/d GW501516) (n=6), or PPAR gamma agonist (rosiglitazone) (n=10) for 2 wk (group 3). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Fasting plasma FGF21 and serum 3-hydroxybutyrate were measured. RESULTS: There was no significant variation in human plasma FGF21 during fasting and refeeding. A 3-month ketogenic diet was associated with a 42% decline in plasma FGF21 levels. Circulating FGF21 increased significantly in response to treatment with PPAR alpha (39%) and PPAR delta (32%), but not PPAR gamma agonists. CONCLUSION: FGF21 does not play a major role in regulating the fasting response or ketosis in man. However, plasma FGF21 is elevated in response to pharmacological activation of PPAR alpha and PPAR delta and may contribute to the beneficial metabolic effects observed in response to pharmacotherapy with these compounds.

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Endocrinol Metab

Publication Date





3594 - 3601


Adult, Diet, Ketogenic, Fibroblast Growth Factors, Humans, Ketosis, Male, Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors, Prospective Studies